Week 11: Distribution: Piracy and Sustainable Cultural Production: Sailing the Seven Seas.

Week 11: B) Medosch argues that: “piracy, despite being an entirely commercially motivated activity carried out in black or grey markets, fulfills culturally important functions” (Reader, page 318)

Medoshc’s essay raises a very interesting notion regarding piracy and how it fulfils culturally important functions but to understand this claim, it becomes important first to elaborate on how culture is said to arise.

Culture has been advocated by many of the copyleft as stemming from old ideas and a product of itself.  Because copyright prevents the use of such ideas however, it has been argued by them that “copyright prevents a lot of new culture, and patents prevent a lot of innovation”.[1]

What Medosch means when stating that piracy fulfils culturally important functions is that it allows for “people to access information and cultural goods they had otherwise no chance of obtaining” and “giving them a chance to empower themselves through obtaining information, knowledge and sophisticated cultural productions”.[2]

In fact, many piracy groups in developing nations act more as “software distributors than as pirates” and aim to provide software that cannot be obtained or sold or used in their country by removing the copy protections.[3] An example of this is the now the disbanded Drink of Die (DoD) group who originate from Russia but had members worldwide.

The patenting of medicine provides another interesting case study whereby its innovations and benefits are not only arguably more real, but also falls into Medosch’s claims. For example, when Brazil choose to break patents on several commercial anti-aids drugs in 2004, it was because they could no longer sustain “spending lots of money on acquiring drugs from multinationals”.

Brazil Aids Campaign (Brazil Aids Campaign, image from http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/1543686.stm)

[1] Mason, M J. (2008) The Pirate’s Dilemma: How Youth Culture is Reinventing Capitalism, United States: Free Press, pp. 56.

[2] Armin Medosch, ‘Paid in Full: Copyright, Piracy and the Real Currency of Cultural Production’, in Deptforth. TV Diaries II: Pirate Strategies, London: Deptforth TV, 2008, pp. 81.

[3] Craig, P. & Honick, R. (2005) Software Piracy Expose, United States: Syngress, pp. 246.


Week 10: FLOSS, Creative Commons and Free Culture: Why Creative Commons? Some Rights Should Be Reserved!

Week 10: Following week 10 tutorial’s exercise, explain why you chose the Creative Commons license that you added to your blog and discuss the relevance (or not) of adding the license.

After reading more into the Creative Commons license, I choose to adopt it for this blog but before explaining why, it becomes important to elaborate on what this means. The Creative Commons license is a legal strategy that operates alongside preexisting Copyright laws and was devised primarily by two lawyers, Lawrence Lessig and Jonothan Zittrain. What Creative Commons aims to do is “reverse the commercial closing of the public domain” by allowing copyright holders “the option of making creative work available for copying and distribution by granting various exceptions to the rights they hold under copyright” (Garcelon, 2005:1312).  More importantly, it also allows for them to retain their rights when profits come into the picture. So instead of subscribing to the notion of copyright by which all rights are reserved, Creative Commons provides an alternative by which only some rights are reserved.

Copyright Commons: Some Rights ReservedCopyright Commons: Some Rights Reserved, Image from http://www.flickr.com/photos/tylerstefanich/2117607887)

The Creative Commons License however has received criticisms from both ends of the spectrum. Those with commercial interests in mind believe that this system “devalues creative works” as “publishers and users alike are less willing to pay for works that are also available for free” (OECD, 2007:78). Whilst freedom activists such as the Free Software Foundation (FSF) have claimed that Creative Commons does not do enough, that it is incompatible with other open systems like the “copyleft” and that it has “lapsed into political and economic liberalism”, becoming instead, a part of the system in which it was originally trying to oppose (Rimmer, 2007: 264):
Reliance on property rights, in the absence of a shared sense of free access, may serve to strengthen the proprietary regime. (Rimmer, 2007: 264)

These claims however, and in particular those of the freedom activists have failed to understand the aims of the Creative Commons License as well as the idea of copyright. Creative Commons does not aim to abolish copyright like the FSF but instead tries to “rebalance copyright law” by allowing content makers to easily distribute their works openly but still retain their rights to financial gain(Garcelon, 2005:1315).

This is the reason why I decided to choose the Creative Commons license because I do not believe that copyright is an inherently bad thing. Copyright was formulated out of a need to “provide a limited monopoly to creators of artistic work as an incentive to create” and plays an important part to their wellbeing and financial gain (Garcelon, 2005:1308). This notion however has become distorted by the “legal reasoning justifying recent extensions of copyright” and has transformed into something that no longer favors the consumers and in some cases the content makers(Garcelon, 2005:1308-09).


Garcelon, M (2009) ‘An Information Commons? Creative Commons and Public Access to Cultural Creations’, New Media & Society, 11 (8) (2009): 1307-1326.

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) (2007) ‘Chapter 5:
Copyright and Open Licences’ in Giving knowledge for free:the emergence of open
educational resources.
United States: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development,pp. 71-86.

Rimmer, M. (2007) ‘Chapter 8: Remix Culture: The Creative Commons and its Discontents’  in Digital Copyright and the Consumer Revolution: Hands Off My iPod. United States: Edward Elgar Publishing, pp. 261-295.

Don’t feed the trolls!

So this week we were told to look through people’s blogs and find something of interest and for further discussion in the subject. Michael Bodnarcuk mentions not feeding the trolls in his blog post.

This reminds me of the week 7 reading where Lovink mentions how online debating culture has become to represent a sign of regression because of internet hooliganism, plebs or trolls. Aside from the obvious humour in studying this issue, I think it is important as it is able to refute many digital optimists claims about how the internet is facilitating discussion and better understanding because quite frankly, the “other” is garbage.

(image from https://loirichard.files.wordpress.com/2011/05/6a00d83451eb0069e2011570ea5170970c-800wi.png?w=300)

Week 9: YouTube and Online Video, Trapped in a system.

Week 9: Burgess and Green argue that: ordinary people who become celebrities through their own creative efforts “remain within the system of celebrity native to, and controlled by, the mass media” (Reader, page 269).

YouTube has been “mythologized as literally a way to broadcast yourself into fame and fortune” (Burgess & Green, 2009: 22). This is because there have been numerous success stories from which “ordinary” citizens have been transformed into celebrities after being noticed or discovered online by producers, record labels, talent agencies etc… At a glance, this increased representation of “ordinary people as potential or temporary celebrities” can be viewed as democratizing the entertainment industry by provided an alternative “to the mass media” (Burgess & Green, 2009: 23). This is because the technology that YouTube runs on is relatively easy to come by and production costs are low, meaning almost anybody has the chance to broadcast themselves into a celebrity. This notion however has been contested by Burgess and Green who claim that the shift from an ordinary citizen to a celebrity still “remains within the system of celebrity native to, and controlled by, the mass media” (Burgess & Green, 2009: 23).

Instead, they argue that Youtube represents the “demoticization” of the media industry rather than the democratization. This is because being popular online is simply not enough, ordinary citizens still need to “pass through the gate-keeping mechanisms of old media” like the recording contract, the television pilot or film festival in order to achieve “celebrity” status(Burgess & Green, 2009: 24). In other words, whilst “all celebrities are famous people, not all famous people are celebrities”. (Burns, 2009:62). For example, Dutch teenager Esmee Denters was “discovered” by numerous record labels like Atlantic Records after posting homemade videos of herself on YouTube. Prior to this however, her videos attracted millions of views but she was never really considered a celebrity in her own right until appearing in mass media(Burns, 2009:66-67).

This has led to the claim that “Fame, when not concocted by Hollywood and available to only the genetically gifted few, takes on softer contours” and that “today’s fluid culture does not require that its celebrities have talent” (Burns, 2009:62). For instance, other than having extremely rich parents and being an heiress to a large fortune, what talents do Paris Hilton and her sister have in association with their celebrity status? As such, famous YouTube personalities can be seen more as “stars” rather than celebrities who are famous for “doing something in particular very well” as opposed to simply being famous, (which seems to be the key defining characteristic of “celebrity” in this day and age) (Burgess & Green, 2009: 24).

Lastly, this shift from ordinary citizen to celebrity thus implies a reconceptualization on behalf of the audience who seem to be unable to separate “celebrity” with being featured in mass media. This could be because “some viewers may watch a YouTube video several times, but rarely pay attention to or remember who produced the material” (Leslie, 2011:70. This is rarely the case in regards to films, television programs or music videos which often entail an aggressive advertising campaign utilizing the mass media. As such, becoming a celebrity also involves the “the transformation of one’s ‘self’ into a kind of commodity” (Burns, 2009:62). And whilst some YouTube stars are able to make a living via advertising revenue and other websites, these “homegrown” brand identities pale in comparison to the revenue generated by celebrities within the mass media and entertainment industry.


Burgess, J. & Green, J. (2009) ‘YouTube and the Mainstream Media’ in YouTube: Online
and Participatory Culture,
Cambridge: Polity Press, pp. 15-37.

Burns, K. (2009) ‘Chapter 5: YouTube Stars: Shooting for Fame and Fortune’ in Celeb 2.0:
How Social Media Foster Our Fascination with Popular Culture,
California, pp. 61-74.

Leslie, L. Z. (2011) ‘Problems, Controversies, and Solutions: Misconceptions about
Celebrity’ in Celebrity in the 21st Century: A Reference Handbook, ABC-CLIO:
California, pp. 69-72.

Facebook Fail

Facebook Fail: The Death of privacy

The lines between what’s private and public have begun to blur ever since the advent of cctv and recording devices however this divide takes another hit as social media websites pick up steam.

One of the best examples of this are people getting fired from work because of networking websites like facebook and linkedin.

According to a new study by Proofpoint who are an Internet security firm, in companies of more than 1000 employees,

  • 17 percent report having issues with employee’s use of social media.
  • 8 percent of those companies report having actually dismissed someone for their behavior on sites like Facebook and LinkedIn.

That’s double from their last years findings where just 4 per cent reported having to fire someone over social media misuse.

It seems however many of those fired have claimed that their comments where private and not intended for everybody to see and whilst all cases which do go to court get dismissed, they have a point.

Most people do disapprove of their boss and think they can do a better job and who hasn’t badmouthed somebody from work, although admittedly, it isn’t smart broadcasting it to a forum of millions, especially in print where its libel.

(Image of  a facebook post that resulted in somebody getting fired http://blog.brand-yourself.com/wp-content/uploads/facebook-fire2.jpg)

Statistics from:


Week 7: Blogging, a Nihalist Impulse

Week Seven: Lovink (Reader, page 222) also argues that: “No matter how much talk there is of community and mobs, the fact remains that blogs are primarily used as a tool to manage the self”.

Blogging represents the paradox of the internet, “creating greater individualism at the same time that it forms new communities” (Forbes & Mahan, 2005: 131). Because of this there is simultaneous talk about community and individualism however such discourse merely illustrates the potential trajectories of a blog. When critically assessing the millions if not billions out there in cyberspace, no matter how much talk there is of community and mobs, it becomes considerably noticeable that blogs are primarily used as a tool to manage the self.

At the moment there are “countless blogs out there in cyberspace” and “most attract few readers and have short life spans” (Russell, Ito, Richmond & Tutors, 2008: 67). In fact, apart from a few happy “A-list blogs, most sites either have no comments or  have closed down the possibility of responding altogether” (Lovink, 2008: 30). This is important because viewership and audience engagement are considered intrinsic factors of a blogging community, and by recognizing this, it becomes clear that most blogs also lack that community or mob characteristic by extension.

It is also suggested that hyperlinks to other sites and postings such as a blog roll similarly point towards “community”, and that “ranking and linking to other blogs are more important than page views” in this respect (Lovink, 2008: 20). But such networking should be viewed “not so much with collective action, but with massive hyper-individual linking” (Lovink, 2008: 29). For example, just because a blog roll contains a famous A-list Blog, it does not mean that it has the same viewership or is even a part of its community. So instead, blogs should be seen more predominantly as individualistic and used as a tool to manage the self.

Lovink refers to this notion of managing the self as “the need to structure one’s life, to clear up the mess, to master the immense flows of information” (Lovink, 2008: 28). Blogs are able to do just this as they enable us to “archive everyday lives” in the form of a “database” (Nayar, 2010: 466). Because of this ability, numerous scholars have even associated blogs with diaries, claiming “blogs were originally personal webpage diaries” (Cahill & Ward, 2007: 2). Examples of such “diary” blogs are so numerous they can be found almost anywhere on blogging websites like WordPress or LiveJournal.

This claim about blogs being primarily a tool to manage the self is further solidified when examining what is actually blogged by users. Most blogs are written in “the native language of the owner” and in a subjective and personal writing style (Lovink, 2008: 8). Such posts are also often about “the relentless uncertainty of the everyday” and are attempts at “exposing the present in which bloggers find themselves caught in” (Lovink, 2008: 29).

Lastly, it should be noted that in arguing for this conclusion, it does not refute the notion that blogs are associated with, used to form, and address communities, but rather that it is not its predominant use. In fact, Blogs can be “utilized by anyone for any purpose” (Lovink, 2008: 9).

How to Blog(How to blog, Image from http://www.debbieweil.com/consulting/workshops/)


Cahill, W & Ward, I. (2007) ‘Old and New Media: Blogs in the Third Age of Political Communication’, Australian Journal of Communication , 34 (3):1-21.

Forbes, B D. & Mahan, J H. (2005) ‘The Internet and Christian and Muslim Communities’ in Religion and Popular Culture in America. United States: University of California Press, pp. 123-138.

Lovink, G. (2008) ‘Blogging, The Nihilist Impulse’, in Zero Comments: Blogging and Critical Internet Culture, London: Routeledge, pp. 1-38.

Nayar, P K. (2010) ‘Part Eight: The Digital, the Mobile, the Personal, and the Everyday’ in The New Media and Cybercultures Anthology, United Kingdoms: Blackwell Publishing, pp. 465-468.

Russell, A., Ito, M., Richmond, T. & Tuters, M. (2008) ‘Culture: Media Convergence and Networked Cultuers’, in Kazys Varnelis (ed.) Networked Publics, Cambridge: MIT Press, pp.43-76

Week 5 Privacy, Ethics and Reputation The Death of Privacy

Mark Zuckerberg: “When people have control over what they share, they’re comfortable sharing more. When people share more the world becomes more open and connected, and in a more open world many of the biggest problems we face together will become easier to solve.”

The advent of social networking sites (SNS) has posed a serious question to privacy. Often, online profiles which display personal information can be used to reconstruct and steal a person’s identity, gaining access to their bank accounts, social security etc…

These SNS’s represent a changing dynamic in the area of social convergence, which always undermines control (Boyd, 2008:18).

To demonstrate this lack of control, the questions of whether or not police officers have the right to access content posted on Facebook without a warrant can be posed.

More importantly however, with his comment made above, Zuckerberg fails to note that whilst Facebook users have different types of controls over the information they put online, they also keep backups of what is written so nothing can really be deleted, and US agencies like the CIA have control over the information present (which is all stated in the privacy policy of facebook). As such, the “controls” of what information is displayed or not on a person’s profile is really a guise, as one can never “opt out” of facebook permanently.


Reputation, Defamation and Anonymity.

With the advent of Globalization, New Media and their subsequent outlets like social networking websites and blogs have begun to blur laws and the jurisdiction of courts. The reason why I bring this up is because last week’s readings on privacy raised many interesting points and in particular the notion of reputation.

Solove states in his essay that people are held accountable for their actions and that “The law in fact allows people to protect their reputations from being sullied by falsehoods”.[1] What this refers to specifically is defamation law and an interesting case of this in practice arose in 2009 when super model Liskula Cohen tried to sue an anonymous blogger for defamation as it labelled her a “skank”.

In order to get the name of the blogger however, Cohen had to sue Google as they refused to release the name. Once the court ordered that they had to release it however, the ousted blogger then decided to sue Google for breaching her privacy.

This important as this case sets a precedence for future cases concerning defamation in the blogging world and demolishes the apparent guise of anonymity.
(Image from http://technorati.com/entertainment/gaming/article/anonymous-didnt-do-it-sony-admits/)

[1] Daniel J. Solove, “How the Free Flow of Information Liberates and Constrains Us’, in The Future of Reputation Gossip, Rumour and Pravacy on the Internet, New Haven: Yale University Press, p. 17-49.

Week 4: Participatory Culture: You Comment and then I’ll Comment.

 Week 4: Russell (et al.) compares elite media and institutions with bloggers and ponders the following question: “Do bloggers, with their editorial independence, collaborative structure and merit-based popularity more effectively inform the public?” (Reader, page 136). Do you agree? Use examples to illustrate your point of view.

The rise of the blogosphere and its unique form of DIY journalism has been celebrated by many “for expanding the ranks of informed citizenry and facilitating the development of an engaged and participatory transitional culture” (Russell, Ito, Richmond & Tutors, 2008: 67). This view however can be proven shallow and false when analyzing the blogosphere more closely.

Blogs have become pervasive throughout the internet because they are relatively inexpensive and easy to create (Cahill & Ward, 2007: 2). It is from this respect that many consider the blogosphere as democratizing the media. This is because they appear to provide numerous views on issues and events. Unfortunately however, what such a view fails to take into account is the fact that “mere potential to reach a mass audience with little or no marginal cost means nothing if bloggers cannot attract readers” (Cahill & Ward, 2007: 5). In actuality, only “a small set of so-called A-list bloggers garner the majority of blogosphere traffic” (Russell, Ito, Richmond & Tutors, 2008: 67) whilst “the majority of bloggers work in a very long tail of relative obscurity” (Cahill & Ward, 2007: 5). So the blogosphere is very much the same as the elite media institutions because only a small number of bloggers hold the attention of the viewers. This dynamic is further complicated as traditional news media and their journalists have begun setting up their own blogs (for example, The Age and its Journalists), so blogs are also “giving voice to the already voiced” (Russell, Ito, Richmond & Tutors, 2008: 68).

In addition there are also serious reservations about the content posted on blogs. This is because blog posts are often subjective and “hastily written personal musings, sculptured around a link or event” (Lovink, 2008: 8). They lack the objectivity required of good journalism. Also, most bloggers also lack the “time, skills and the financial means to do proper research” and almost anything can be posted by anyone whether true or not (Lovink, 2008: 8). For example, one blogger was able to fool millions with his impersonation of Bill Clinton. As such, Blogs are hardly guarantors of authority and aren’t as likely to be held accountable to their blunders like the elite media outlets (because laws and jurisdictions there are much clearer).Because of this, there isn’t any real incentive for bloggers to double and triple check their facts like elite media companies. So instead bloggers “look more like an army of ants contributing to the great hive called public opinion” as opposed to hard formulated and researched news (Lovink, 2008: 8). And whilst blogs written by professionals do exit, they are only a marginal presence in the vast blogosphere.

Lastly there is also the notion of encouraged citizen participation which is exemplified by the ability to comment on blogs. Whilst there are those who use this function well, the ability to comment on blogs has become a “sign of regression” when discussing online debating culture (Lovink, 2008: 30). This is due to Internet Hooligans or plebs who are “garbage” and “do not generate additional value” with their involvement (which is a view shared amongst “a good many blog operators”) (Lovink, 2008: 30). In addition, it has also been noticed that some blogs have even removed the ability to comment which is often the result of discussions turning “hostile” against the author or organisation. This type of action ultimately defeats the ideals of blog participation and democratisation. Then there’s also the point that blog posts, especially those of elite media institutions, rarely differ “rarely elicit reader comments” and differ their print content with their online content (Russell, Ito, Richmond & Tutors, 2008: 68).

Blog Participation
(Blog Participation, image from http://laurelpapworth.com/tag/dr-jakob-nielsen/)


Russell, A., Ito, M., Richmond, T. & Tuters, M. (2008) ‘Culture: Media Convergence and Networked Cultuers’, in Kazys Varnelis (ed.) Networked Publics, Cambridge: MIT Press, pp.43-76

Cahill, W & Ward, I. (2007) ‘Old and New Media: Blogs in the Third Age of Political Communication’, Australian Journal of Communication , 34 (3):1-21.

Lovink, G. (2008) ‘Blogging, The Nihilist Impulse’, in Zero Comments: Blogging and Critical Internet Culture, London: Routeledge, pp. 1-38.

Week 3: Debating Web 2.0: Rankin’ Tactics

While discussing YouTube, José van Dijck argues that the site’s interface influences the popularity of videos through ranking tactics that promote popular favourites (Reader, page 94). How do ranking tactics impact on the formation online ‘communities’?

The advent of New Media and User-Generated Content (UGC) has not only ushered in a new type of community but also a different form of participatory culture. These changes have similarly demanded a new way of thinking about User Agency or how we gauge the different levels of user participation. Jos van Dijck’s essay elaborates on this new emerging form of participatory culture and raises an often neglected point of discussion by scholars, which is the role in which “a site’s interface plays in maneuvering individual users and communities” (Dijck, 2009: 45). In particular, he mentions ranking tactics.

In the case of YouTube, their ranking system singles out the most viewed, most discussed, top favorites and top rated videos to be featured on the front page. For those with accounts it will also recommend videos you may like based on your past viewings and the viewings or your peers (people you have subscribed to). This is because the internet is transforming and “becoming increasingly social”, and viewers are now “looking at websites, habits and behaviors of our peers in order to make well-informed and educated decisions about their next move” (Weinberg, 2009: 3). Whether it’s what video to watch on YouTube or which article to read on the websites of news outlets, rankings of certain media content and their prevalence (such as being featured on the front page) equivocally guide viewers and consumers.

Dicjk notices a problem with this however as such systems can be manipulated by both users and website owners. For example, the concept of Google bombing:

“Google bombing is a type of mischief practiced by pranksters who take advantage of a loophole in the search engine Google’s algorithms. A given site will be promoted in rankings if a number of other sites with a key phrase are linked to it.” (Bell, Ezell & Roekel, 2007: 71)
One of the most famous of which is the connection between the phrase “miserable failure” and George W. Bush in 2005.

George W Bush Google Bomb(Image of George W Bush Google Bomb from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Google_Bomb_Miserable_Failure.png)

Another issue that isn’t mentioned however is the notion that such ranking systems can act as Gate Keepers. In the case of YouTube, videos which become featured on the front page encourage more hits and more subscriptions to the author. Because of this, their subsequent video uploads will be recommended to more people and consequently generate more attention. This exhibits the beginnings of a hierarchy reflective of real life scenarios, eg. Blockbuster Hollywood films produced by large companies and famous actors receive more media attention as opposed to independent films. If we look at YouTube and those featured on its front page, it becomes noticeable that many of the videos featured are produced by famous YouTube personalities who have already been featured before like RayWilliamJohnson or the communitychannel.

This however isn’t only exclusive to YouTube and is found in the world of search engines. Since viewers “aren’t likely to ever click through to the third, fourth, or fiftieth page of a search engines listings” companies and websites have invested and competed amongst each other in order to improve their rankings which become crucial to obtaining more hits and thus internet traffic (Fox, 2009: 43). This is known as Search Engine Optimization and it isn’t a coincidence that the companies or websites higher up on search engine listings are also quite wealthy as compared to those lower down.

This issue however relates to merely one part of this “profound problem with ascribing participatory involvement and community engagement to users” (Dijck, 2009: 45). Dijck however leaves this discussion open and identifies it as an often unanalyzed field for scholars.


Bell, M A., Ezell, B. & Roekel, V. (2007) ‘Google Bombing’ in Cybersins and Digital Good Deeds: A Book about Technology and Ethics, United States: Routledge, pp. 71.

Dijck, J. ‘Users Like You? Theorizing Agency in User-Generated Content’, Media, Culture and Society 31 (2009): 41-58.

Fox, S C. (2009) ‘Part 2 E-Mail’ in E-riches 2.0: Next-Generation Marketing Strategies for Making Millions, United States: AMACOM, pp. 39-63.

Weinberg, T. (2009) ‘Chapter 1: An Introduction to Social Media Marketing’ in The New Community Rules: Marketing on the Social Web, United States: O’Reilly Media, Inc, pp. 1-17.